The large number of deaths related to the coronavirus in Michigan’s nursing homes has resulted in a congressional inquiry and the Legislature’s passage of legislation to create COVID-only facilities.

As of July 12, Michigan ranked among the 10 states with the highest number of nursing home deaths. Nearly 8,000 Michigan nursing home residents had contracted COVID-19 and almost 2,000 had died since March, accounting for about one-third of all coronavirus deaths in the state. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has come under fire for her response to the pandemic,  according to Bridge, a nonprofit news service. In April, due to hospital capacity problems in Detroit, she signed an order that required nursing homes to accept some patients previously hospitalized for COVID-19, with the condition that the facilities had set up isolation units and had access to adequate personal protection equipment. Soon after issuing the order, however, she pulled it back, telling nursing homes to postpone the movement of COVID-19-affected residents, except for medical reasons. Michigan also designated some nursing homes as “regional hubs” to care for COVID-positive residents.

The new legislation, which Democrats and Republicans passed, would require the state to evaluate its existing regional hub model and provide an analysis to lawmakers by mid-August. Whitmer is expected to veto the legislation, arguing that it creates a false premise that facilities’ isolation units are inadequate and that it creates “detention centers.”

Meanwhile, Whitmer has enlisted the University of Michigan’s Center for Health and Research Transformation to evaluate the state’s hub model and assess best practices and alternative approaches.

Other states have also grappled with their actions following the pandemic. New York’s governor has faced heavy criticism for initially compelling nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients from hospitals. Many states are now dealing with case increases in nursing homes despite their policies, as case numbers increase in the surrounding communities.